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Trump recycles old right-wing talking points, claims ‘prayer rugs’ were found at the border

"People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise."

Donald Trump speaks after he received a briefing on border security next to Sen. John Cornyn(L) R-TX and Sen. Ted Cruz(2ndR) R-TX near the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump speaks after he received a briefing on border security next to Sen. John Cornyn(L) R-TX and Sen. Ted Cruz(2ndR) R-TX near the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

In what was likely an attempt to distract from Thursday night’s bombshell report from Buzzfeed News that revealed President Trump directed his personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, Trump tweeted out a quote from a days-old article in the conservative Washington Examiner that continues to fear monger about the immigrants who cross the southern border.

The Examiner article quotes a rancher on the U.S.-Mexico border who claims he’s “found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” The source is not named, and provides no evidence of his claim.

“People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise,” Trump added in his tweet.

The notion that “prayer rugs” are being found at the southern border is a years-old talking point of the far-right. In 2014, Breitbart published a piece that quoted an unidentified “source who works among independent American security contractors along the southern border in Arizona and Texas” who claimed six individuals from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen had been picked up in Laredo, Texas, “right along [the area] with the ranchers in Texas finding prayer rugs in their ranches.”

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Another Breitbart story from 2014 claimed to have photo evidence of one of these prayer rugs. It was quickly debunked when Gawker pointed out the photo in question was of a t-shirt.

There has been scant evidence to support the notion that immigrants who cross the southern border have any links to Islamic extremist groups, even though Trump and his top administration members have continued to push that narrative.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have repeated DHS’s false claim that CBP prevented nearly 4,000 “known or suspected” terrorists from crossing the border during Fiscal Year 2018. According to an NBC News investigation, only 6 “known or suspected terrorists” were actually stopped by CBP during that timeframe.

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Trump has, since the beginning of his campaign for president, implied that any association with the religion of Islam is inherently malicious. These beliefs have informed harsh executive orders including his unconstitutional 2017 Muslim Ban, which effectively instituted a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”